Sunday, September 9, 2012

Soul Cycle Intention Series: RESPONSIBILITY

Today was a different kind of Nina/Soul Cycle class for me today - we were in Tribeca instead of Scarsdale, and I had Laura with me (my amazing nutritionist of 4 years who introduced me to Soul Cycle some 120 classes ago!), in addition to Maddie (who I not only referred to Laura, but who I brought to Soul Cycle for her first time today). So I was anxious to see what Laura thought of Nina, anxious to see how Maddie liked the class, and anxious to feel the energy of the Tribeca studio.

I wouldn't say that the class was very different than Nina's Scarsdale class, but I had new and different thoughts going through my mind.

What are you riding for? Motivation. Motivation. Motivation. That's what kept going through my head. I need motivation to do more, to do my laundry, to get my licensure, to run, to spin, to date, to live life. But then I got to thinking, am I really that unmotivated? No, that's not the case at all. I'm working 50 hours a week, between Soul Cycle and babysitting, and still managing to get laundry done, squeeze in workouts, and sleep at least six hours a night. I left class, thinking about my intention of finding motivation, and instead I had a realization.

Maybe it's not about motivation.

It seems to me that it's about responsibility.

Not blaming things on external factors. That's not to say I should internalize everything because some things are beyond my control, but really taking a good look at the situation. Am I late because of traffic, or because I am not allowing enough time to get through traffic? Am I unlicensed because the licensing process is long and annoying, or because I am procrastinating the long and drawn out process? Am I anxious because I have an anxiety disorder, or is it because I consume too much caffeine and keep forgetting to pick up my prescription?

It's not about self-blame, it's about realizing that I can take ownership over these things in my life and get them done. Get licensed, find a social work job (and hopefully remain a part-time part of the Soul Family at Scarsdale!), be on time, get enough sleep, make enough money, do my laundry, work out, have fun, and feel good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Soul Cycle Intentions - Honesty (What is in your way?)

So it's been a while, but here I am. Still blogging about my Soul Cycle intentions. Nina still never fails to inspire me and get the wheels of the bike in my brain turning, but today, my experience was different. I thought about things I really never thought about before.

"Honesty." She said it in a list of other words - and to be honest, I don't even remember what the other words were. Strength? Self-confidence? Something along those lines. But honesty set off sirens in my mind.

I'm a nice person. I'm a good person. I'm generally an honest person. But there have been quite a few things lately that I haven't been entirely honest about. So it got me thinking about why I have not been honest. I have been dishonest because I want people to like me, to approve of me and approve of my life choices. I don't want people to be upset with me or look down on me.

Would these people actually feel this way if they knew the truth? Probably not. I've been dishonest with others mostly because I am judging myself harshly.

So what is in my way? My behaviors of judging myself harshly, and of being dishonest.

Dishonesty changed my life a long time ago. At least, I credit it with doing so. I was very overweight as a child, and went to a school where my ethnicity was the minority. I ended up becoming friends with a couple of girls who were part of the "popular" group. I remember feeling so good getting to play with them at recess, even if I only spent time with a couple of them outside of school. I stretched the truth on a few occasions, because I wanted the girls to like me more. Eventually, they called me out on my lies and stopped talking to me. Even now, about seventeen years later, we are not facebook friends (and many people who I've never spoken to in my life are my facebook friends), I avoid them in public, and I say to others, "I don't like them." I had a rough time with friends in middle school (and, I guess, who doesn't?) and really a rough time in general. I sometimes can't help but wonder how my life would be different if I had been honest then.

In struggling with anxiety, depression, anorexia, bulimia, and self-injury, lies and deception were part of what allowed me to survive. I did not believe that I could survive without my "vices" and I had to hide those behaviors from others. Lying, deception, and dishonesty kept me from completely losing my mind. Dishonesty became my best friend.

I pride myself on my recovery. I have achieved a level of health and stability that I never thought was possible. I proudly call myself "recovered." Yet something that was a big part of my disordered existence is still part of my day to day life. Dishonesty may be all I have left of my eating disorder.

I am not dishonest on a regular basis by any means, but it still comes up from time to time, more than I would like it to, over things that are really pretty trivial. Based on self-judgment. Based on the fact that it's all I knew for so long. It may be the road block between who I am and who I want to be. It's time to work on being honest with myself and with others.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"your body is a wonderland"

Sure, the song referenced in the title may be about foreplay but it also holds another meaning. See, so often we are focused on the SIZE of our body, and its shortcomings, that we fail to recognize the amazing things our bodies can do.

I can run a marathon, I can do a Soul Cycle triple, I can soothe babies, I can beat my fastest time for a mile, I can stand on my feet for 8 hours a day on a retail floor, I can do a great headstand, and that doesn't even include the amazing things that my MIND can do. My body also sends signals to my mind, telling it what I am hungry for, what it needs, what it wants. It tells my mind when it's had enough exercise and when it needs me to kick it up a notch.

I'm thinking of a certain friend of mine who swears that she will be okay once she loses ten pounds, who swears that her eating disorder won't kill her, who sees herself as a number on the scale and on the label of her clothes. She can't even see who she is in the mirror because her perception is so skewed by these numbers. I wish she was my only friend with this problem but it's far from it.

If you are reading this today, I challenge you to think of all the amazing things your body can do, and if you can't think of any, I challenge you to try something new (maybe a Soul Cycle class, if you haven't gotten there yet!) and realize that you have plenty to be amazed about. You have plenty to love. Simply because you're alive.

I don't usually write lecturey inspirationy posts but that's what I was feeling tonight. I hope it was less of a lecture and more inspirational but at least I hope it made you think. My body will likely never fit my ideal of size perfection (unless one day I can change that ideal) but what it is capable of is absolutely wonderful.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Soul Cycle Intention Series Post 2: Confidence

So lately, I have been searching for confidence. Most people either know one side of me or the other. The confident side, or the not-so-confident side.

 Recently, I have been most confident in my physical abilities. Since running the marathon, I have started to believe that there isn't much that I CAN'T do - with proper training. Maybe I can't be the fastest, but I can DO IT. I've come to believe that there's no distance I can't handle, no weights I can't work up to, no resistance I can't keep the pace at. Never in my earlier years would I have thought that at 26, my most confidence in myself would lie in my physical abilities. I'm proud of myself and the way I developed that confidence. I wish that I could say I had that much confidence in other areas of my life. So, when I set an intention for "confidence," I try to channel it to a few different places.

 1. Love, marriage, future: I just ended a short "relationship" with a great guy who it just wasn't going to work out with. When we were dating, I was finally starting to become confident in myself that I HAD found someone who would reciprocate feelings towards me, who I could make a future with and have a family with. So it kind of really burned when I found out that it wasn't going to work out. I started to doubt that I could have a future with any guy - that anyone would ever love me for me. Most people like me for my personality but are not attracted to my body. This guy, he even appreciated my body, but said that we were missing that spark. I couldn't help but wonder, because I felt a spark coming from him - was I LACKING a spark? Will no one ever feel that connection to me? I know that's not true - in fact, quite a few guys recently have felt "chemistry" with me that I did not feel back. Seeing clearly and putting all the facts together before panicking, "I will be alone forever!" will help me to achieve the confidence I am searching for.

 2. Body: Even before my eating disorder, I was not confident in my body. I remember as early as age two wishing I could be smaller, thinner, more compact. Over the years, I have come to embrace certain things about my body. My height - I love being petite. My boobs - okay, they're kind of perfect. My hands - I think they're so pretty. I've found clothes that I look good in, and I finally wear sizes that are normal-to-small. There are parts of my body that I am not so comfortable with, and I tend to feel like people are looking at my body and judging me. I have a date coming up with a guy who works out a lot. I work out a lot too, so it sounds great. However, he commented that due to all the working out I do, I must be a stick. I'm quite the opposite of a stick...I'm more built like a curvy little topiary. And I told him this. We haven't gone out yet (am I going to kick myself for blogging about a guy who I haven't officially met?!) but I'm a little nervous that he's expecting this skinny thing and that he won't be interested in me when he sees what I look like. I need to focus on taking the confidence I have about my strength and physical abilities, and project that onto my feelings about my body. After all, it's all connected!

 3. Fear of Rejection: It's not so much a fear of rejection as it is an obsession with rejection. I become convinced that I am going to be rejected - by guys, by jobs, by friends, whatever. I just tell myself that I won't get the job, that he doesn't like me, that she doesn't want to be friends anymore, because I feel like the let-down will be easier to take if I am braced for it and already believe that it's not going to be good.

So, yeah. This girl who appears confident on the outside in many situations, is actually really in need of a confidence booster. Thankfully, Soul Cycle, therapy, running, and life experience are helping me to build confidence. Setting an intention for confidence at Soul Cycle helps me to remember that it is something that I need to work towards - and that it is something within my reach. I can be confident. I have made such huge strides in my life in the past few years and I can continue to make strides if I set goals and intentions.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Who are you riding for? What are you riding for? - My Soul Blog Series #1

When someone asks why I run, the answer is easy. I run for ME. Me, me, me. Running is selfish for me - I need it to be a normal, happy, sane, stable person. Running is an unquestionable part of me. I don't think - I just run. Soul Cycle is a different story. It goes deeper. It's not just about survival. It's what helps me to THRIVE. It makes me really really think.One thing that all of my favorite instructors have in common (true that *most* but not ALL instructors at Soul Cycle have this in common, yeah) is that they not only ask us to set an intention but remind us to think about that intention. I was thinking a few weeks ago that every time I go to Soul Cycle, I would write a blog post about my intention. Then I realized that my intentions are pretty similar. I'm going to do a post series ABOUT my intentions that I have been riding for lately.Usually, it's a "WHAT are you riding for?" but today, it was a WHO for me.Today, I was riding for A friend. Recently, I was at the saddest funeral I had ever been to. My friend took her own life last week. She was honestly one of the strongest people I had ever met, and had been through so much. I could list it all but even that, I'm sure, is just scratching the surface. She got to a place that was so dark that she saw no way out. And I've been there. Multiple times. I was finally able to pull myself out, and give my life a 180, and truly don't believe I'll ever be there again. I love life now - I love my life and I love myself, but I remember clearly what it was like to be on the other end. To hide in the bathroom at work crying, to spend nights restlessly tossing and turning unable to turn my brain off, to think about ways to end everything, to hate my body and hurt it in so many ways, to remember and relive trauma, and to panic over every little thing because life was just out of my control.Somehow I developed the strength during those times. I found that running, total body conditioning, and spinning made me feel better than restricting, purging, and cutting. I learned how to talk about my problems, learned to trust people, and learned how to relate to people. I am NOT that person who I used to be. Sometimes I really don't know why God gave me what I needed to get out of it, and didn't give her what she needed, but I am so thankful that I was able to find my internal strength - and find those external joys.So today, I was riding not just for her but for my friends - and the people who I don't know - who are where I used to be and are struggling to get out of it. For those who are fighting tooth and nail, and for those who are exhausted and ready to give up. For those who have started to see the light and aren't sure how to get there, and for those who don't believe that the light exists. For her and all the other people who just couldn't bear the pain and no longer have the opportunity to turn their lives around the way I did.I was riding for my friend. I was riding for hope. I was riding because I CAN.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What Exactly Is So Amazing About Soul Cycle?

I had to think about whether to post this on my running blog or on my wellness-oriented blog and it definitely seems to fit more with the wellness, as much as Soul Cycle is a part of my running/training routine!

So this isn't a review of Soul Cycle, because I am a loyal Soul Cycle rider, and I would give it rave reviews, five stars all the way across the board. But instead, this is about what draws ME to Soul Cycle...

I enter exercise classes with a different mindset than most other exercisers. I am not there to lose weight. I am there to feel good. I spent years of my life chasing after the elusive perfect weight, and only found myself in a deeper hole. After battling anorexia and bulimia, I finally began to reintegrate exercise into my life a couple of years ago. I started with yoga, because I enjoyed yoga while I was in treatment. Then I experienced a sudden weight gain and I knew I had to work some cardio into my routine. That was when I first tried a spin class. Not a Soul Cycle class though. After a month or so with no weight change, I was thinking, "screw it."

Then, my dietitian recommended Soul Cycle. I live half an hour from the nearest Soul Cycle studio, if there's no traffic. However, when I set foot into that studio in Scarsdale in November 2010, it was different than any workout I had ever done. We weren't being told to burn calories, we were being told to set an intention. It wasn't about losing weight, fitting into those jeans, or being entitled to eat ice cream later. It was about doing good for ourselves and for someone else. About centering ourselves. About those principles of yoga that I just could not grasp in a yoga class. Somehow, I was able to take in the "zen" component while doing intense cardio that I just couldn't let in during yoga.

Certainly, every instructor at Soul Cycle is different, and there have been some that I have liked more than others. My favorites have been Gabrielle in Scarsdale, Louise on the UWS, and Christine on the UES. What I like best about these instructors is the way they make it a workout that's about more than just working out. It's about making yourself better from the inside out, and challenging yourself. It's about smiling, laughing, dancing, and realizing that there are more important things in life than your jeans size. My favorite instructors, and really all of Soul Cycle, help you to find a sense of purpose on the bike and off the bike. A sense of purpose greater than a diet.

Really, a good Soul Cycle class to me feels like a good therapy session. And while some people may argue that Soul Cycle is expensive, I have to say that it's cheaper than a therapy session! I'm guilty of being a poor, unemployed grad student (soon to be unemployed grad!) going to therapy in addition to going to Soul Cycle, but I've been through a lot of shit in my life and I deserve it! Everyone deserves to be happy and healthy. Soul Cycle is an essential part of what gets me there and keeps me there.

I only do 1-2 Soul Cycle classes a week. The majority of my fitness regimen is running. Training for marathons and half marathons. But I look forward to my classes every week and my weight has leveled back off to where it should be, if only because I have been so happy with all of my flowing endorphins that I haven't been WORRYING about it, and supposedly when we stop worrying about our weight, that's when it goes where it needs to be.

Soul Cycle kept me sane when I couldn't run following an injury in the NYC marathon. It's a great reward when I know I have to do something that day or week that I just don't want to do. And I have my favorite teachers, who I don't get to take often, whose classes feel like holiday celebrations to me.

So what exactly is so amazing about Soul Cycle? Everything...

Friday, January 20, 2012

My love affair with Diet Coke

My name is Jessica and I am a diet soda addict. I have been for ten years and counting. I'd like to explore why.

In the beginning, my diet soda addiction was a function of my eating disorder. Sugar-free Jell-O and Diet Coke were my favorite foods and as a 9th grmader, I constantly fantasized about the day four years in the future when I would move in to college and have a fridge stocked with nothing but those "essentials". Although my Diet Coke consumption was pretty high during my high school years, I started college ready to be healthier and normal, and stocked my room with Easy Mac and water. There was a vending machine downstairs in the residence hall. There were two vending machines, actually. One had snacks and one had sodas. I think I used the snack machine maybe three times but by October, I was already out of vending machine points due to my addiction to diet soda. It was a Pepsi school, and I drank 20 ounce bottles of Diet Pepsi like it was my job. In the morning, I'd pick one up on my way to class. I'd get one in the dining hall at lunch, another one to get through my afternoon class, a few at dinner since the all-you-can--eat dining hall provided free refills, and if I got a night snack, I had one then too. It wasn't "eating disordered." My eating disorder was the farthest thing from my mind during those early college years. But my addiction held strong. I never really saw it as a problem, just a quirk. "I drink a lot of Diet Coke," I'd say with a smile when asked for an interesting fact about me.
At the end of college, a few things happened. As a result, I moved off campus and no longer had access to vending machines, no longer had a meal plan. I had to buy soda at the grocery store! My eating disorder also set on fire, and my soda bill at Wegmans was higher than my food bill! Drinking sleeve after sleeve of Diet Coke did shed light on the fact that I was drinking a lot. I could actually see the evidence. I just didn't care.

The summer after graduation, I can recall a specific incident where I was arguing with my mom. Yelling and screaming, and yelling at her for not screaming. Directly before this fight, I had just consumed an entire 12-pack of Diet Dr Pepper. I didn't care.

Soon after that fight, I began day treatment at Renfrew. I told the dietitian how much soda I drank and she suggested I cut back. During breaks, I would sneak to the "illegal soda shop" and buy a Diet Coke (it was a wireless phone store, and they didn't have a permit from the Health Department to sell food or beverages so they covered up their soda fridges with newspaper. Perfect since drinking soda during day program was forbidden anyway). Some people would bring their sodas back up to the treatment rooms and sneak sips in between groups. I, on the other hand, would chug all 20 ounces, because even as an addict, I was a soda snob and wanted it cold and bubbly. I even met a friend, a fellow Diet Coke addict, who preferred her soda warm and flat. Sometimes we would sit in Starbucks after program drinking sodas and I would give her the end of mine. That is true friendship.

Residential treatment was a challenge, but it was one I was ready to take on. And in all seriousness, I was ready to conquer my eating disorder but not my soda addiction. Obviously, the soda addiction was psychological, but the caffeine addiction was real and physical (we were allowed one cup of caffeinated coffee in the morning, which I drank despite not liking coffee, but that didn't cut it since I was up to 20 sodas a day at that point). The first couple of days were painful. On the 3rd day, we went on an outing to CVS. My roommate stole a bottle of Coke (regular, not diet!) for me and another girl to share. We freaked out over whether it was worth it to drink the Coke, and I personally freaked out about whether I could consume something that had been shoplifted. I the end I had a few sips. Soon after, I was allowed out on passes and I would drink as much Diet Coke as possible while I was out. Then someone taught me how to bring soda back into the building without getting caught. I learned how to put up to three sodas in the crotch of my pants and walk past staff back to my room. I also stopped being such a soda snob and drank my soda warm when I had no other option.

Eventually, I was discharged and continued to move forward with my health. I was still drinking 6-10 Diet Cokes a day. One day, on the beach, I had a panic attack after drinking a bottle of Pepsi Max. That incident sparked my first ever voluntary separation from Diet Coke. It was brutal at first, but eventually I realized that it was great to wake up in the morning and not need caffeine.

I wish I could say that was the end of my love affair, but I went back and forth, back and forth for a couple of years.

In 2011, I had a rebirth of sorts. I started running and stopped drinking caffeine. I was the happiest and most relaxed I had ever been. Eventually, I caved and started drinking the occasional Diet Coke, but I would like to think I'm more balanced now. I rarely drink more than 2 a day (and when I do, I feel extremely guilty - the way I used to feel about food, but this makes more sense because I am probably doing my body more harm than good).

I have an addiction. To caffeine, to bubbles, to that specific flavor (although I'll occasionally drink caffeine free Diet Coke or a Sprite Zero). Compared to what it was, it's under control. There is so much research put there that diet soda causes cancer, obesity, and who knows what else. I would like to stop drinking soda, but when I stop, I miss it. Is it like smoking or drinking? Is it so bad for me that I need to stop? Research is inconsistent. When they start IDing me to buy a Diet Coke, maybe then I'll stop completely. But even if I totally quit, it will just be a long-distance love affair. Diet Coke and I really have something.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Recovery in the Calorie Culture

Weight loss. Diets. Calorie-burning. It seems like no matter where we go (aside from eating disorder treatment, where those words aren't allowed), we can't escape this cultural obsession. Even in my yoga classes, I hear about it. Why? Because if it doesn't help you to lose weight, people are not going to want to do it. When I was training for my first half-marathon, my running coach recommended that we all try to do yoga regularly to prevent injuries. A friend from my running group said "No way, that hardly burns any calories." Sometimes I wish I had the courage to say what comes to mind, because my thought was, "It burns more calories than you're going to burn while you're injured on the couch from not stretching enough!"

As someone who is recovered from an eating disorder, I no longer get "triggered" when someone mentions weight loss, diets, or calories. I do, however, still get annoyed when I'm trying to have this great mind-body experience in yoga or spin class and the instructor says, "Think of a goal. What are you trying to achieve by being here today?" and then before I have the time to think of a goal or intention, the instructor tells me that I am probably aiming to work off those "holiday pounds." I don't even know if I gained any "holiday pounds." And I don't care.

So what I am writing about today is something that took me five long years to figure out: how to fully recover despite society's constant weight loss messages.

Challenge #1: SET YOUR OWN GOALS. When I'm in a spin class or yoga class and the instructor says to set an intention or a goal, I think about what's really bringing me there. In general, I don't let myself work out if my deepest motivation is to burn calories and lose weight. So when I'm on the bike or sitting in sukhasana, I try to tap into why I am working out. If I realize that what brought me to the class today is weight-related, I try to think deeper. What is going on with me that I am so focused on weight right now? What void am I trying to fill? Have I been overwhelmed with the holidays? Stressed out? What do I need to take myself out of the superficial weight-centered mindset and go deeper? Often, my goal is a simple "I want to feel good." Sometimes it's "I want to feel strong" and other times it's "I want to feel balanced" or "I want to clear my mind." My running coach once asked us why we run. All of the other women in my group said that they were running to lose weight. I said I was running because it gave me a mental sense of peace that I couldn't find anywhere else. Exercising with a weight goal in mind turns it into a chore, but exercising because of the mental or spiritual benefit, the feeling that you get from a run, a spin class, or a yoga session, makes exercise enjoyable and takes you away from the old ED mindset of exercising for calorie burn.

Challenge #2: EAT WHAT YOU WANT. I still struggle with comparing myself to others from time to time. It's the hardest for me when I go out to lunch or dinner with a friend and they order a salad. Although salads are actually NOT always the healthiest choice on the menu, most of my friends believe that they are "being good" (food choices do NOT make you good or bad!) and sacrificing something by ordering salad, and I feel like if I order something more "fun" than a salad, they will get some feeling of satisfaction knowing that they are "being good" while I am "being bad." Is this possibly all in my head? Yes, very likely so. Which is why I fight against this urge. Recently, a friend wanted to order "just a cobb salad...I've been bad lately, I need to be good" and what I really wanted was a turkey burger with sweet potato fries. I had to remind myself that even if my friend believes that a salad is "good" while a burger is "bad," I KNOW that there are no good foods and bad foods. I also know that if I order a salad when I am really wanting something different, I will not feel satisfied. PUT THAT NUTRITION KNOWLEDGE TO GOOD USE! Many, if not most, people who have been through EDs, especially those of us who have been through treatment, have a much better understanding of nutrition than our counterparts. We have a long history of taking that nutrition knowledge and using it for sick purposes. Why not take that knowledge and use it to allow ourselves to enjoy our food and eat what we want!?

Challenge #3: SPEAK UP! I drive my therapist crazy when I tell her a story and say, "And then I was like, oh my god, you're so ridiculous, that's not the kind of thing you say to a person!" She always says, "Did you really say that?" and I say, "No, I just THOUGHT it." Well, recently, I've started to actually say something. Especially when it comes to friends' and family's (and strangers') misconceptions about food. I was so upset the first time I tried to explain hunger and fullness cues to my family. My parents seriously laughed at me, laughed at the thought of "listening to your body." I didn't let that get me down though. I've mentioned the concept of moderation and intuitive eating to my parents on other occasions (my dad is a member of the "clean plate club," as well as a hot dog addict, and believes that his high blood pressure is just genetic) and they've kind of stopped laughing at me. I've also spoken up to friends who are obsessed with dieting, encouraging them to embrace a health-based instead of restrictive attitude. Most recently, though, I started reading some nutritionists' blogs that I was really disagreeing with. These nutritionists were specialists in weight loss, it seemed, but they were encouraging their clients, when they wanted to maintain weight, to continue with a diet/calorie-obsessed outlook. I left comments about the importance of intuitive eating and moderation in weight maintenance. I have no clue if anyone actually read my comments, but by speaking up, I feel less a "victim" of the calorie culture and more a "renegade" in fighting the calorie and weight obsession!

Challenge #4: DISARM! Triggers are just that - they allow you to shoot a loaded gun. Unfortunately, the "calorie culture" is everywhere - on TV, on the radio, at the gym, in conversation with friends and family, all over the internet. One of the biggest challenge is to unload the ammunition from your gun. Former "triggers" still make me angry and frustrated sometimes, but they no longer cause an eating disordered behavior, or even thought. It's behavioral, really. Fight against the urge from a trigger a few times, and eventually you've unloaded it. It no longer triggers a behavior. I know that this is easier said and done, and I know that a big part of eating disorders exists outside of the societal obsession with weight. However, recovering in this culture really does require disarming our guns.

These are a few things that have been really instrumental for me in my recovery. I know that it's different for everyone, and that recovery is far more complex than a "how to" blog post, but these are little challenges that I find have helped me immensely. If you decide to try any of these challenges, I'd love to hear how it goes for you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Story of My Recovery

Judy Avrin, founder of Someday Melissa, who lost her daughter Melissa to bulimia, asked that those of us who have recovered or are in recovery can share our stories to give a message of hope to people who are struggling.

I suffered from an eating disorder (ED-NOS, more strongly identified with anorexia than bulimia, but more often identified by outsiders as bulimia due to purging and weight) for a long time, maybe eight years, before I was treated. It was on and off, but the eating disorder was always there somewhat. Since I was overweight before the start of my eating disorder, and my weight never dropped to a dangerous place, I flew under the radar virtually the whole time. As time has gone on, I have learned that maybe my family wasn't completely oblivious of everything, but they were unaware, for the most part, of what I was struggling with. However, although it wasn't outwardly obvious that I was sick, I was mentally getting to worse and worse places.

My journey toward recovery should have begun one day in April 2007, when I sought help at my college's counseling center. However, the counselor I saw said that I didn't look too sick and probably didn't need much help, that it's really no big deal - his wife "was bulimic and still purges sometimes," and that maybe I should look for a workbook. Maybe it was that my weight was fine. Maybe it was that it was just weeks before the end of the school year. Maybe it was that the guy knew nothing about eating disorders, and knew even less about mine. But that appointment only made things worse.

So it was June 2007 when I was driving home from Long Island, up the Cross-Island Parkway - a road where cars are always speeding and cutting you off - and was freaking out about the lunch that I had with a friend and decided that I would try to purge while driving since there was really nowhere to pull over and time was of the essence. After maybe ten seconds, I stopped myself. "What do you think you're doing!? You're going to DIE doing that on this road!" (apparently, it wasn't enough in my mind that purging could kill me, but at least I was cognizant of the fact that purging while driving on a crazy highway could)
About 20 minutes later, I called Renfrew.

The woman I spoke to that day, Jaime, made all the difference. She was sweet and understanding, and even when it turned out that my insurance at the time was out-of-network, she gave me continued encouragement to continue to seek help. I was rejected from an IOP program at a hospital because I was told that I would be uncomfortable since the rest of the patients are all underweight (again, what a horrible way to explain things to someone with an eating disorder!), but they offered me outpatient services. Shortly after that, though, my insurance company changed and I called Jaime back and eventually (though this was actually a 4-6 week long process) I got into the day program at Renfrew.

Renfrew didn't work out so well. I had started to get better but then insurance dropped me from day, and then I had a week off before I stepped down to IOP, and after that break in treatment, I just couldn't get myself back together. I ended up getting kicked out of the IOP program, due to miscommunications, with conditional readmission.

Renfrew had told me that I wasn't at a critical weight so they weren't even going to try inpatient/residential for me. However, I felt like that was what I needed. I searched some other treatment centers and found one, Cambridge Eating Disorder Center that was willing to take me.

I did well at CEDC, but due to insurance issues left prematurely. Less than two months later, I went back to CEDC, in the worst physical condition I had ever been in. However, it was this round of treatment when I really started to get somewhere.

I began to realize that I did not want a life in and out of treatment centers. I did not want to constantly be dehydrated to the point that my head was spinning. I wanted to be successful in graduate school (which I put off first for a semester and then for a second semester), working toward my Master's in Social Work. I couldn't become a therapist if I was sick, that just wasn't right.

My motivators were all external at the time and I think that's how it has to be in the beginning. By the end of that stint of treatment, I said to myself, "I never want to go through this again. I am SO SICK OF TREATMENT." I sped through the Renfrew day and IOP stepdown programs (at a different site than the one that had kicked me out) and my therapist at Renfrew discontinued our outpatient therapy after a few weeks, saying that it seemed that I really did not need therapy.

So I thought that I was done with treatment and therapy and had accomplished a full recovery. But really, my recovery was just beginning and a few months later, I would enter into a relationship with my current therapist, who I have been seeing for more than three and a half years now, since June 2008.

Recovery has been a lot of things for me. It has been trying new foods, learning to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full and know that doing that will not "make me fat," learning that nothing is off-limits. It has been becoming aware of my body through yoga, developing a healthy relationship with exercise, and eventually becoming a runner and completing my first NYC marathon. It has been uncovering memories of traumas that contributed to my eating disorder, and taking some of the power away from those memories. It has been making new friends with eating disorders, separating from those friends whose eating disorders were bringing down my own recovery, reconnecting with some of those same friends after we took care of ourselves and came back stronger, and realizing that I am a complex person and can have fulfilling relationships with those individuals who do not have an eating disorder or other "issues", as well as with those who have struggled with those issues. It has been using my voice in friendships, work, and school, as well as in creative outlets. Recovery has been eating, drinking, laughing, running, jumping, crafting, bonding, crying, screaming, fighting, working, playing, gaining weight, losing weight, becoming whole.

I consider myself fully recovered now. I possess a level of recovery that, five years ago, I did not believe even existed. I am finishing up my last semester of graduate school and will graduate in May with my MSW from NYU. I ran the NYC Marathon. I have great friends. I have dreams of getting married and having a family one day soon. I am not tied down by my eating disorder history. If anything, it propels me forward, reminds me of the strength that I had to have in order to recover and that I still possess.

Recovery is different for everyone. What works is different. But what is the same is that every moment is a new opportunity to recover. You're never too far gone, whether you've struggled for 3 months or 30 years. It's important to believe in yourself though, and to truly believe that you have it in you to get through this and come out stronger. It may not be enough to just want it - you need to believe that you can achieve it. And when you believe that, it is absolutely possible.